As marketers, we’re always dabbling with the latest technology. After all, our worlds are inherently digital.
Even at home, we’re surrounded by technology. And depending on how connected we choose to be, we can now trade our world for that of augmented or virtual reality.
Both concepts are quickly becoming a tool for marketing—and businesses of all size are leading the way. As the uses and benefits continue to expand, we’ll likely see more and more companies integrating AR and VR into marketing playbooks.
Benefits of Augmented Reality (AR)
To augment something means to make it greater in size or value. Thanks to rapidly improving technology, augmented reality continually increases the expansiveness of our reality.
Our first thought—that’s an incredibly sizable task.
After all, isn’t reality already extensive?
Similar to virtual reality, augmented reality (AR) creates layers of “reality” over existing reality with the help of computers. The enhanced layers are computer generated and often include sound, video, graphics, and GPS data.
While the technology itself has been around several generations, mainstream AR uses began in the 1950s and 1960s in fighter jets. Heads up display (HUD) showed pilots the plane altitude and weapon aiming symbology. Today, if you drive a vehicle with a backup camera, you enjoy AR.
Or, maybe you already enjoyed modern AR over a cup of coffee today.
Where AR Is Used Today
Snapchat and Pokemon Go! are two of the most notable companies using AR. And though Pokemon Go! received the most AR press, Snapchat was the first to mainstream the technology.
Using smart filters to overlay time, temperature, flower headbands, dog ears and nose, Snapchat users can experience AR first hand. When lenses were introduced in 2015, users discovered interactive animations that transformed their face.
Remember that rainbow spewing out of your mouth? Classic AR memories.
Other mainstream AR applications include Google Translate, and the now defunct Google Glass. Google Translate allows smartphone app users to point their phone at text, whether on the street or in a brochure, and have it translated to the native language used by the app.
Because AR has so many untapped uses, the possibilities are incredible for marketers and consumers alike. According to Juniper Research, it’s estimated there will be 2.3 billion AR apps by 2021. Additionally, there were 737 AR start-ups posted on AngelList as of Nov 2016, with the average valuation for each company at $4.7 million. That’s a lot of potential.
Benefits of Virtual Reality (VR)
Similar to AR, virtual reality uses computer-generated images. But this time, the computer is creating everything you see using stereoscopy—a way to create an illusion of depth.
Using virtual reality, you can visit one of the seven wonders of the world or step into your favorite video game. The technology has a wide range of forms and applications—it can encompass an entire room or fill your vision through a VR headset.
Currently, there are several forms of VR technology available to consumers. (Although if you had a red ViewMaster as a kid, you were diving into VR without knowing it). One example is the Samsung Gear VR—when a Samsung smartphone is inserted into the headset, it becomes a full-fledged VR platform. Another is the Oculus Rift, which requires a gaming PC to create the depth of computer generation.
Top 5 Best VR’s (Early 2017)
While you may immediately associate VR with gaming platforms, its applications are constantly increasing. Retailers, such as furniture stores, can showcase room sets inside a home without building anything. And medical and scientific users can complete simulations without risks of real-life experiments.
Virtual Reality in the Real World
In the past, VR was a novelty found at electronic conventions. Today it’s growing, but not without pains.
Forty-four percent of consumers said in a 2015 Statista survey that they were “very interested” in VR. The same survey claims revenue from virtual reality products, software, and hardware, are projected to reach $5.2 billion in 2018.
This growth is reflected in the number of VR startups, with 685 companies on AngelList as of June 2016. Consumers, yet, are more skeptical.
Horizon Media, Inc. polled 3,000 people in 2016, with two-thirds saying they were completely unaware of VR. Fifty-five percent cited a lack of interest or excitement as the reason to not own a VR device.
Augmented vs Virtual Reality in Marketing
Both technologies rely on computers to generate graphics, but the difference is in how immersive the generated reality is. Immersive technology VR allows the user to enter an entirely different world, while AR technology overlays graphics on a real-world view.
For companies looking to break into this technology, AR apps can be quickly created. However, it’s important to keep quality in mind. Here’s the number one question to consider before diving into R&D.
How Will Your Customers Interact with the Technology?
To answer this, spend time surveying and researching your audience’s wants and needs for the content.
If there is a desire or interest, AR is simply enhancing what already exists. If your business or brand already has a strong reputation, AR can be a good addition to engage customers with something new.
Additionally, keep in mind that AR tools strike more positive attitudes toward the technology itself than a brand or product. However, it can add to the brand experience, such as for retailers allowing customers to compare a product in store next to another through an AR app.
VR also has marketing leverage, but on a larger scale.
The technology has grown beyond a simple audio-video experience, with a focus on storytelling. The stories are robust, with haptics, ambisonics, and hand controls. In an interview with Content Marketing Institute, Sarah Hill, CEO and chief storyteller with StoryUP, predicted VR trends will be walk-around or room scale.
AR and VR technologies are evolving each day. While it appears consumers and marketers are currently more apt to use AR, VR still has its place in marketing and the world.
Where do you see the technology heading? Does your business currently use either one? Let us know in the comments!